Tuesday, January 22, 2019


Two of the native-speaker English teachers in our office had birthdays: one on Saturday the 19th, the other on Monday the 21st. We decided to fête the birthday people on Monday, so to that end, I brought in homemade cole slaw, homemade corn slaw, leftover sausage, the components for mac and cheese (pasta, double cream, Gruyère, herbs, seasonings, bacon), and some store-bought rolls. One of the birthday people, J, bought several half-racks of pre-cooked baby-back barbecue ribs, which turned out to be pretty good. The other birthday person, M, brought in little personal-sized tarts for dessert, and those were quite delicious.

Today, Tuesday, I fed the substantial leftovers to the rest of the office for dinner. I deliberately set dinnertime for 7:30 p.m. because I knew half of the staff would be gone: I had a lot of leftovers, but not enough to feed twenty hungry Koreans. Of the three teams I invited, only two showed up, but we still had ten dinner guests.

Here are some photos from yesterday and today. First up: I had leftover sausages from previous events, so I took those out of the freezer, thawed them a bit in my microwave, cooked them in beer (not being a connoisseur, I normally pick my beers at random; this time, it was a Hefe-Weißen), then finished them with a sear on a dry pan. J, who is South African and knows his braai and wors, proclaimed the sausages exquisite.

Next up: corn salad, which wasn't as good this time, but which nevertheless proved fairly popular. I made it spicy, like last time, finely mincing up green chili peppers along with several colors of bell peppers. I also added dried onion flakes and crushed red pepper, black pepper, my standard slaw sauce (mayo + pickle juice), and a spoonful of sugar because the whole thing still tasted somewhat bland. I think I bought the wrong brand of corn; one online expat contended that Korean corn is what Americans would call "feed corn," i.e., it's fibrous roughage designed for horse molars—bland and lifeless.* The local groceries all sell American brands of canned corn; I'll stick to those from now on, even if they're a bit more expensive.

Below: cole slaw. I grated the carrots in a cheese grater, and this time around, I minced the cabbage into tiny pieces, burger-joint-style. I added way more black sesame seeds than last time; I think their flavor really enhances the slaw. What's funny is the recipe actually calls for poppy seeds, but I didn't have any on hand. Maybe I'll order some from iHerb next time.

When it came to the item you see below, I braced for impact, expecting people not to like it. This was my "Cajun fried rice," made from the echoes of the gumbo I had served the previous week. To make my previous batches of gumbo, I had boiled my homemade andouille first, which left me with a redolent, fatty broth that reminded me of what happens when you boil chorizo. Not wanting to waste the sausage water, I used it to cook up a huge bucketful of rice, and that was the base for my Cajun fried rice. I diced up and pan-fried a kilo of chicken breast, pan-fried (in andouille fat) two bagfuls of small shrimp, pan-fried my remaining andouille, then used the rendered fat from the fried andouille to pan-fry a series of veggies: onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc. I had a rotting bagful of green onions left over, so I took the time to strip away all the rot, then mince the fresh remainder and mix it straight into the fried rice as is, i.e., uncooked. This added a fresh bite to the rice. The rice itself also got a frying, but this created an annoying layer of nurungji on the bottom of the pan—a savory crust of rice made even more savory by the andouille fat. I mixed everything together (well, not the nurungji, but everything else), hoping that the large cut I had used for the bell peppers wouldn't bother anyone. (It was getting late; I was tired, and I didn't want to spend the time micro-mincing the bell peppers the way I normally do.) Result:

People loved it. J asked to take a batch home, and tonight, one of the female staffers took a bunch of the rice home, along with a few other leftovers, including both slaws and the remainder of my mac and cheese (explanation forthcoming).

Here's a shot of most of the staffers chowing down:

And here's the mac and cheese:

Once again, I used Iron Chef Mike Symon's miraculous recipe—Gruyère plus double cream, no Béchamel. Although I didn't have rosemary, I herbed and seasoned the dish my way, and it turned out just fine. Everyone complimented this dish; it was the obvious favorite. I had to explain, to the people taking some mac and cheese home, how to go about reheating the dish, given that it was guaranteed to harden in the fridge: get a pan, add some milk, bring the milk to a simmer, then add the mac and cheese and stir, slowly and patiently. Do not microwave, on pain of causing the cream/cheese sauce to separate and become a nasty, greasy mess.

On Monday, I added pancetta to the pasta. Today, it was good ol' Amurrican bacon, cooked to a crisp. In all, I'd say the mac and cheese was pretty damn good. I ate two servings.

Below, some store-bought ribs after a session in the microwave:

The ladies play Rock, Paper, Scissors to determine who among them will wash half the dishes:

In this final shot, the men do the same:

Everyone thanked me for the meal. This whole thing was an unexpected effort: J had mentioned the birthday thing only a week or so beforehand, shortly after we'd had the gumbo. I normally do big cooking projects once a month, so yeah, this took me a bit by surprise. But I was happy to do it: an excuse to cook for others is always a good thing. The crowd washed most of my dishes but neglected to do a few of them; no worries. I washed what little was left to do. Come February, I'll be doing it all over again... but probably only for the R&D/native-speaker crowd, not for all four teams on our side of the floor.

*Horses do eat corn, in case you were wondering.


John Mac said...

Damn, it all looks great but I'd almost kill for a bowl of that cole slaw.

And maybe one of those Korean cuties to dine with me...

Charles said...

Love those shots of your big, thick sausage up there.

Kevin Kim said...

Charles... there's more where that came from.